NAIROBI, In a conservative Muslim society such as Somalia, it is
extremely rare for a person living with HIV to speak out. But
Mahamud Warsame, 53, from Galkayo in Mudug region of central
Somalia, became an activist after his wife died from an
HIV-related illness. He spoke to IRIN on 14 December:
"I found out about my own status in May 2007 when I went to see a
doctor who sent me to be tested. The results came back and the
doctor informed me that I was HIV-positive. I honestly thought at
the time that it was the end of the world for me. My wife also
tested positive and she was devastated. She looked like the light
went out of her.
"Friends and family disappeared as soon as they found out about
our status. We had no support. Even though we were put on
antiretroviral drugs, it did not help my wife because I think she
just gave up. I looked after her for 8 months but she died in
"The biggest problem we faced during this time was a lack of
understanding and support from those closest to us.
"People would not rent their premises to us. People I have known
for a long time would not even shake hands with me. I think that
is what killed my wife, the isolation we suffered.
"After I buried my wife I decided to come out openly and tell
people about my status and the fact that I was on medication and
doing fine. I want to make sure no one has to go through what my
wife and went through.
"We need to fight stigma and discrimination.
"I have already helped some men to go on treatment and not hide
"Some people believe that because we are Muslims, we cannot
contract HIV/AIDS. I tell them that it does not discriminate on
the basis of religion, ethnicity or culture. Anyone and everyone
can contract the virus.
"In this country we need to fight to dispel this false sense of
security that Muslims don't contract it and tell people we are
all in this together.
"I am now on medication and those who don't know me cannot even
tell I am HIV positive. I am working and trying to raise my two
children who lost their mother. I think living with HIV has made
me a better person."